terror[ism]

Did Somebody Say "Oil"?

in

There is a bit of a row brewing in Australia. It seems the Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has had the bad taste to admit that his country's involvement in the Iraq war is to secure oil supplies.

"The Middle East itself not only Iraq is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world, and Australians ... need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq," Dr Nelson said.

"We need to ensure, notwithstanding the significant natural resources that our country has been blessed with, that we are able to access the energy requirements in our region and throughout the world," he said.

So it wasn't about WMD then. Prime Minister John Howard is staying firmly on message and denying that oil had anything to do with the illegal invasion.

"I had a look at what Brendan said and I think in fairness to him he didn't quite say that," Mr Howard said on Macquarie Radio.

"I haven't said in my speech that the reason we went to Iraq is oil or the reason we're staying there is oil.

"We are not there because of oil and we didn't go there because of oil. We don't remain there because of oil. Oil is not the reason."

Got that? Nothing at all to do with oil. So what was it all about then? Well Dubya is now linking it to the American War of Independence, in some twisted way, to mark the July 4 anniversary.

President Bush equated the war in Iraq on Wednesday with the U.S. war for independence. Like those revolutionaries who "dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty," Bush said U.S. soldiers were fighting "a new and unprecedented war" to protect U.S. freedom.

This is just bizarre even for Bush. If anything is reminiscent of the War of Independence it's the insurgency - throwing out an imperial power and establishing self-determination as indeed General Sir Michael Rose has suggested. And Bush couldn't resist another attempt at linking his war with September 11 2001.

"a major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day."

Anyway, nothing at all to do with oil. So one has to wonder then why Bush would phone his puppet, Nouri al-Maliki to thank him personally for approving the draft oil law in Iraq.

Al-Maliki said Tuesday his cabinet had unanimously approved a draft of the law, raising hopes that major progress had been made. U.S. President George W. Bush phoned the prime minister to thank him.

This is, of course, the oil law which, when passed, will mean huge profits for American petro-chemical companies, notably, Exxon Mobile and Chevron. The problem however, is that Al-Maliki has a different interpretation of the word "unanimously" and is trying to push this law through without proper consultation with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it had not seen nor approved the draft.

"We hope the cabinet is not approving a text with which the KRG disagrees because this would violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region," the KRG said in a statement.

The Sunni politicians are unhappy with this law as well and are boycotting the parliament. Even Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has rejected the draft. The delay in passing the law is causing headaches for General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq who, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, has to present a report to Washington in September to show some sort of progress. It's likely to be a very short report.

Car containing propane and accelerants catches fire in Birmingham

..in 2001:

Police say the explosion was caused by a propane gas cylinder and other flammable material placed in the maroon Peugeot 309 as "an improvised explosive device".source

Well, that's rather interesting.  There are three stories on the BBC website from 2001 about this case, and nothing since, which suggests that no one was ever caught or charged with a crime and incidentally giving some idea of how such events were handled more sanely back then.  This was, remember, just after 9/11 and the Real IRA campaign of real, proper, dangerous bombs in England. 
The results are what we've been saying - the car wasn't subjected to any internal explosion (the doors are still shut and unbowed, the roof's still on).  It's just burnt out, as you'd expect.  The devices are crude incendiaries rather than IEDs capable of exploding.

It was treated as a crime rather than terrorism, but the details given are so similar to the Tiger Tiger device so as to make one stop and take notice, particularly as the timing is right in the middle of the Afghanistan War (at the time Mullah Omar was preparing to flee Kandahar).  Early al-Qaeda blowback?  There's a really intruiging story here to be dug into.

However, a few more things are coming across my radar about Arab medics and how the New Labour government has been treating them.  First this, from last year:

New United Kingdom immigration laws governing post-graduate study are causing widespread consternation among Arab medical students seeking a British placement.
...
T
he absence of postgraduate opportunities in the UAE has traditionally led to a high percentage of Arab doctors pursuing training in the UK; currently, an estimated 6,000. This number has risen in recent years, in part due to the complications associated with accessing American student visas in the wake of 9/11. Now, medical schools in the region are concerned that postgraduate opportunities for Arab students are rapidly drying up.
...
His concerns are echoed by the British Arab Medical Association (BAMA), which has campaigned vehemently against the new rules. Dr. Ayman Hamade, assistant general secretary of BAMA, described the laws as; "A knee-jerk reaction; discriminatory and racist."
source

Why so many doctors coming into the NHS from abroad?  Well, it's easy to see the attraction of importing foreign labour into the NHS to the managerial freaks in Government - you get an instant boost in numbers for the press, you can pay them less, they won't complain as much (less hinterland and organisation - doctors in the UK often come from well-off middle class families with clout as we saw with MTAS), they can't leave if you make their work permits conditional on remaining employed, otherwise they get deported.  It's a form of serfdom, quasi-slave labour.  It also means you can control the number of people becoming consultants, which helps that old New Labour/Thatcherite obsession with breaking the power of professions and replace genuine craft and public vocation with (much more lucrative and manageable) training and privatisation.  The Yorkshire Ranter (who's been onto this for a while) has an excellent article on this mode of New Labour thought.
From the BBC list of arrested suspects comes an interesting detail about one of the men arrested at Glasgow Airport:

DR BILAL ABDULLAH

...

He was given limited registration by the General Medical Council (GMC) from August 5 2006 to August 11 2007.

Limited registration is awarded to recent medical graduates and it allowed him to work in Britain for a year, but in accordance with standard procedure, he could not move jobs during that time and had to be supervised.

Note the dates - he had just over a month left in his job.  All this isn't going to help the transient workers you've imported to settle and integrate - imagine you're in that position, from a privileged background you come to a foreign country, you'lll stay in small groups (antisocial hours mean medics often socialise with other medics) you'll be stressed from work and resentful of your lack of control over your life.  Then, out of the blue, the rules switch round to apparently discriminate against you and turn your life upside down, while the same government that introduced them is complicit in murdering your compatriots back in Palestine and Iraq.

I begin to detect a picture emerging.  It's no longer a question of 'why would medics behave like this?', it looks like the roots may be in blowback from neoliberal indifference to the individual, Blairite managerialism and neocon bloodlust.  In the US stressed employees go postal, here they seem to go medical.

OK, there's a lot of speculation in this, but I've thrown a few pieces of the pieces of the jigsaw on the table, feel free to rearrange them in any order that makes sense, utilising Occam's Razor if you like.

UPDATE - should have done it before, but of course NHS Blog Doctor has loads of stuff of interest - here, here and here.  Particularly around the confidential email that suggests that the point of the Modernising Medical Careers fiasco was to secretly discriminate against non-UK doctors applying for jobs.

Tiger Tiger, Burning Bright?

in

Frightened yet?

The terror of 7/7 was awful enough, but now al-Qa'ida has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK. And it will get worse before it gets better ... There is growing suspicion that al-Qa'ida operatives ­ possibly British- born ­ have returned from Iraq as well as Afghanistan to guide, direct and influence groups here."

Quarsan picked up on this quote by that extremist Murdoch-shilling taking dickhead of an ex-plod earlier, but it needs expanding on.  This is the new Prime Minister's future advisor on international security matters, telling us that the complete, utter, rank amateurish, balderdash of profoundly non-terrifying non-car bombs that the press and broadcast media have been having collective fear-wanks over for the last five days are worse than 7/7, an attack run on coldly professional lines by men who knew what they were doing, killed 52 people and injured many others, physically and mentally.  Now I reckon that's an insult to my intelligence, to my fellow Londoners and, I suggest, to anyone unfortunate enough to be caught up in 7/7.  It beggars belief that this man is listened to by anyone with an ounce more sense than a jam sandwich.  Oh, and I switched on my radio this morning to hear Tony McNulty in the same job sounding exactly as dull, stupid and unpleasant as he did when John Reid was in the hotseat.  Plus ca change.

I was in a pleasant poolside bar in Greece when the new Cabinet was announced, and was enjoying myself ('Bye, Doctor Reid!  Bye, Marge!') right up until I heard about Lord Stevens' appointment.  This is a man who, let us not forget, was appointed by the football authorities to investigate corruption in the game and dutifully found it was clean as a whistle.  What do we think will happen when he's appointed by New Labour to investigate whether, say, the Iraq War has led to an increase in the terrorist threat?  Perhaps he can invite Lord Hutton and Lord 'What's He Doing In The Lib-Dems?' Carlile along to help out with buckets of whitewash (supplied by Halliburton, naturally).  Mind you, I still think appointing Ruth Kelly to Transport is someone's idea of a sick joke, so perhaps the Stevens appointment (and that of the unacceptable fat of capitalism Sir Pigby Jones) should be seen similarly.

Actually, reading round the blogs to get some bleedin sanity back into the picture, Juan Cole points out that the known arrests are of medics from the Middle East, specifically Jordan and Iraq (I'm assuming that the people responsible are about as good at evading the polizei as they are at bomb-making here).  This points to another rather ironic bit of New Labour idiocy - the import of foreign doctors into the NHS to meet targets, followed by the MTAS junior doctor job debacle where there were more doctors than jobs.  If the quality of the medical care by the gentlemen arrested is anything like their apparent bomb-making ability, I'd run a mile screaming from any hospital unlucky enough to employ them.  Go in to see them with an infection and they'd probably prescribe antibiotics, but be unable to work out how to get the drugs into you ('perhaps you could just, like, sit next to them and wait?').  So much for record NHS investment and making the NHS a top priority.  We should send them back where they came from.  What do you mean, it's a blood-stained hell hole of our creation?

However, that's not the most amusing part - that must go to our old friend 'al-Qaeda General' Dhiren Barot, the numpties' numpty, the king of the jihadi muppet wing, who spent an inordinate amount of time devising unworkable plots, which were then obligingly published by the Met to show what a cold, calculating killer they'd caught, and seem to have been taken as such by other numpties.  With the Met on the case vectoring the PDFs, you don't even need to actually stage an attack to have influence.  We all knew Barot was a stupid, ignorant fantasist with an inflated opinion of himself and no apparent sense of irony, but then we read SpyBlog and others and form our own opinions based on the facts.  Perhaps it's a good thing wannabe jihadis watch Die Hard and read the News of the World and believe what they're told by the Met, then.  Much safer than actually working out how to build real bombs.

UPDATE - More from septicisle covering much the same ground rather better.

The Bogeyman Strikes

At least we must be grateful for one thing; terrorists are becoming more incompetent with every attack. According to vast acres of press coverage, it's all down to the familiar old bogeyman - al Qaeda.

"clear that we are dealing, in general terms, with people who are associated with al-Qaeda" - Gordon Brown
"The terror of 7/7 was awful enough, but now al-Qa'ida has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK. - Lord Stevens

The last quote is interesting as it does seem to admit that the Iraq war has provided a training ground for terrorism. But, naturally the quote of the day goes to Tony.

Blair held out the example of the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan - criticised by Islamists as an example of the heavy-handed imperial West oppressing Muslims - to highlight unfounded claims of grievance. He asked how it is possible to claim that Afghanistan's Muslims are being oppressed when the Taliban 'used to execute teachers for teaching girls in schools'.

Blair added: 'How are [we] oppressing them? You're oppressing them when you support the people who are trying to blow them up.' - Source

Speaking of blowing people up, isn't this oppression then? The civilian casualty figures climb daily in Afghanistan, in Iraq.

Our strategy to fight terrorism was derailed by the Iraq war and made the problem a lot worse. As we continue down this foolish road, terrorism will remain amongst us, and eventually the bombers will gain some technical competence and strike, causing death and injury.

The strategy needs to be urgently changed because at the moment we are not winning, we're making it easier for the terrorists to recruit, making it easier for our civil liberties to be taken away from us.

Coming soon: 90 Day detention.

Seymour Hersh Interview With Democracy Now

in

There's an interesting interview on Democracy Now with Seymour Hersh which adds some flesh to some of the points about the recent violence in Lebanon that Tom alluded to earlier. Seymour Hersh is claiming that America, along with the Lebanese government led by Fouad Siniora has indirectly backed the Islamist Militant group Fatah al-Islam. These are claims he first made in March in an article in the New Yorker called The Redirection. He also debunks the claims made that Fatah al-Islam is backed by Syria or tied to al-Qaeda. Here's a quick excerpt:

The idea was to provide them with some arms and some money and some basic equipment so -- these are small units, a couple hundred people. There were three or four around the country given the same help covertly, the goal being they would be potential enemies of Hezbollah in case of warfare; in case Nasrallah decided to do something physical, get kinetic, in Lebanon, the Sunni Siniora government would have some very tough guys on its side, period. That’s the policy.

So, according to Sy Hersh the current episodes of violence are "unintended consequences". It's worth reading or watching the whole interview. For up-to-date and detailed information on what is happening, I recommend Tears For Lebanon.

Is there anything left of the ISC's reputation after yesterday?

in

A major plank of the Government's case against holding an Independent Public Inquiry is that the ISC committee has already looked at everything, and that is sufficient.
Listen to the attack dog's robust defence of the ISC here from last night's C4 news...

Now listen to Paul Murphy, Chair of the ISC demonstrate his grasp[sic] of the brief on last night's newsnight.
I can't quite work out if he is saying that his committee was not given the full facts about the identification of MSK, his committee failed to understand the information it was given, or was lied to by the securuty services.
I suspect the wriggle defence will be that by 'Identified' - Murphy will claim he meant identified as being on the list of primary terrorist targets, but that does rather leave one wondering how someone can be on the list of primary targets before they have been identified...

Finally, listen to Mrs Rachel North and Paul Lever, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee destroy what is left of the reputation of the ISC.

Now, if you haven't already...

Incoming *UPDATED*

in

[just a holding post, as this isn't going away any time soon...]

The Operation Crevice Trial is over.

MI5 had previously told the MPs that Khan and Tanweer had been "on the periphery" of an investigation. Neither were known to have terrorist intentions nor had they been identified and listed as terrorist targets, MPs learned. The BBC understands however that MI5 did in fact know Khan's surname in June 2004 after checking ownership of his car.

Speaking in November 2006, the outgoing MI5 chief Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller conceded the security services were under such pressure that they would not "always make the right choices".

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David, was among those killed by Khan on the London Underground, called for a public inquiry - saying the security services had to account for what they knew.

"On 7 July and immediately after the attacks, one part of the security services were running around shouting 'clean skins, clean skins', meaning that these were home-grown terrorists and they were unable to identify them," said Mr Foulkes in a BBC interview.

"The security service is clearly disjointed and dysfunctional in that they are not talking to each other or they are not disseminating the information in a coherent way."

So how much did MI5 know about MSK?
MI5 to plead poverty over 7/7 failure.
MI5 knew of bomber’s plan for holy war
The July 7 questions that still haunt victims

"This was a vicious and cynical attack out of the blue in a way that there was no knowledge of beforehand in any respect whatsoever." - Charles Clarke, July 8th, 2005

Independent Public Inquiry anyone?

UPDATE:

Mrs Rachel North is back:

I have been asking for an inquiry independent of Government and the Security Services since December 2005. It has been frustrating not being able to say exactly why I was so determined to make the point that the 7/7 bombers were not the ''clean skins'' who came ''out of the blue'' as we were told. In fact two of them were part of a criminal network of men bent on destruction that was known about, they were tracked and followed and then let go. We all make mistakes. I do not blame people in the security services for their mistakes and failure to use intelligence. It is failing to admit mistakes and then trying to cover up mistakes which is unforgivable and inexcusable.

It is the public who daily run the risks on the tubes and trains and uses, in the shops and clubs and streets. It is the public that the Government and Security services are sworn to serve and protect. It is the public who deserve truthful answers about what was known before 7 July and what happened on and after that day. It is the public who have been failed, and who continue to be failed by the overt politicisation of intelligence, by the posturings of politicians who pass legislation but who do not tell the whole truth. It is particularly distressing for those who were most affected by 7/7 - the families, the injured and the survivors, to find out that perhaps the ringleaders of the London bombings could have been picked up and might have been facing sentencing today along with their acqaintences - or friends - in the Crevice plot that was stopped. And I prommised many of these people that I would do what I could in my small way as a blogger and writer, to get an inquiry into 7/7 over a year ago.

It's not just survivors and families who are calling for an inquiry. It is many members of the public, including many British Muslims who are adding their voices to the calls. The Lib Dems and the Tories are also calling for one. There is much to learn about July 7, and what could be learned and shared would help us understand, help us prepare, help us deal with the aftermath as a country of many faiths and races who seek to live peaceably and productively together, and undoubtedly spare suffering and save lives in the future.

Meanwhile, the spin on the few Radio Bulletins I have caught this afternoon seems to be split along two lines, depending on whether it is the government, or the security services doing the spinning: 

- That the correct decision was made when it was decided not to follow up the involvement of MSK and ST because, as suspected fraudsters associated with the biggest 'terror investigation in the UK they weren't important.

- Or that the security services really would have quite liked to follow them up, but there weren't sufficient resources.

Which begs the question, if the correct decision was made at the time, then how can it have been a resource issue...?  You don't need resources to NOT follow up on somebody.   Either MI5 wanted to pursue these 2 men's involvement but couldn't, or they didn't feel they needed to. 

The government and establishment are still resisting an Inquiry.  Given their collective duplicity and evasive wriggling over the last 2 years, it appears protecting their own reputations with spin and flannel is still a higher priority than protecting us...

Hindsight is a poor tool for altering history, but a damn fine tool for planning ahead.

*Davide Adds*

Tonight's edition of Newsnight should be interesting. I've just received their e-mail alert:

Tonight on Newsnight we have an exclusive on the links between the bomb plotters found guilty today and the terrorist mastermind behind the 7/7 attacks in London. What were the failings of intelligence and did MI5 mislead MPs?

Home Secretary, John Reid, speaking in the Commons has rejected calls for an inquiry into the 7/7 bombings. He's said MI5 are putting information on their website, and a parliamentary committee will look at the case again.

Richard Watson reveals in astonishing detail how the 7/7 ringleader was being watched by MI5 and knew the bomb plotters. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis reminded the Commons today that the government said the bombings had come out of the blue. We hope to be getting answers tonight to the key questions following this trial.

We're hoping to speak to the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee that took evidence from MI5. We should also be joined by opposition politicians, an intelligence chief, a 7/7 victim and a Muslim community leader. And in the second part of his investigation for the programme tonight Richard Watson goes on the trail of the terror network in the UK and Pakistan, confronting the men suspected of organising it.

See you at 10.30pm on BBC2.

For anyone who missed the show, it can be seen from here (briefly).

ISG: History Repeating

In London as in Washington... Gordon's big problem is Iraq, and when cornered New Labour ask themselves "What would George do?".

We're getting our own Iraq Study Group. Really. Gordon has invited Pantsdown Paddy and Jeremy Greenstock to figure a way to get us out of this mess that Tony got us into - with the active support of Gordon.

Somehow I don't think they'll try the 'surge' idea.

Crying Wolf

in

Yet another terror scare story in the Times:

 

AL-QAEDA leaders in Iraq are planning the first “large-scale” terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.

Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on “a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki” in an attempt to “shake the Roman throne”, a reference to the West.

Let's take a look at it. It seems like hype, and deliberately leaked hype as well. for a start there's a key phrase 'one operative'. Hmm, that does sound a tad dubious. Who was this man? Under what circumstances did he make this claim? What else did he say? We're left in the dark.

Do the intelligence services really expect us to believe that al Qaeda are going to let off two atom bombs?

“It could be just a reference to a huge explosion,” said a counter-terrorist source. “They [Al-Qaeda] have got to do something soon that is radical otherwise they start losing credibility.

 

Or in Britain?

The report says there is “no indication” this attack would specifically target Britain,

And Iran's support? Note the words I've put in bold

There is no evidence of a formal relationship between Al-Qaeda, a Sunni group, and the Shi’ite regime of President Mah-moud Ahmadinejad, but experts suggest that Iran’s leaders may be turning a blind eye to the terrorist organisation’s activities.

More clumsy spin designed, not to inform, but to spread fear, only this time it's Iran not Iraq in the frame.

A History Lesson

in

On April 4th 1967, Dr Martin Luther King Jr announced his opposition to the Vietnam war in his sermon A Time to Break Silence

You can read the speech in the link, but it is far better to listen to the great man.

Coming Soon

This is going to be a huge story More soon. A lot more.

Khalid Sheik Mohammed

in

Craig Murray writes:

Secret Confessions and Torture

Mohammed Sheikh Khalid has now, voluntarily and of his own free will, admitted he masterminded every significant event from the Norman Invasion through the bubonic plague, fall of Constantinople, and Great Fire of London, to the Battle of Little Big Horn, assassination of JFK and the Oklahoma bombing.

Or he might as well have. The extraordinarily comprehensive list of terrorist outrages for which he claims responsibility would be beyond the capacity of any but the most brilliant and inspired mortal; Khalid, I fear, is a more run of the mill thug.

But in truth, we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, he has confessed at all. The BBC brazenly reported all of yesterday that while Khalid did allege he had been tortured during his four years of secret detention by the CIA in various locations around the globe, he is now freely confessing under no duress and does not retract any of his confession.

Who says? The proceedings being held in Guantanamo Bay, and which the BBC report so uncritically, are held behind barbed wire, machine guns, gun emplacements, reinforced steel and concrete and combination locks, before an exclusively military panel. Khalid does not even have a lawyer present. For all we know, his confession could be an entire fabrication. The blandness of the BBC reporting in these circumstances is one of the worst examples of the appalling desertion of the principles of that once worthwhile institution.

The readiness of the rest of the media to push the "instil fear" button on behalf of the Orwellian government is predictable. They report as fact that Khalid also planned to blow up Heathrow, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and any other British building the Pentagon had heard of.

If Khalid really is freely and openly confessing all of this stuff, then what possible reason can there be to deny him a lawyer, and not allow public and media access to his trial? The atrocities he allegedly confesses - the Twin Towers, Madrid, Bali - left thousands of bereaved families. They have a right to see justice done, rather than this elaborate propaganda set-up, with its total lack of proper legal process or intellectual credibility.

Did Khalid really do all of this? Two facts must be considered. He has been through years of vicious torture and of solitary confinement. If the experience of others who survived extraordinary rendition is typical, he has been kept in total isolation, in darkness, beaten, cut, suffocated and drowned, suffered white noise and sensory deprivation. He will have been moved around, often not even knowing which country he is in. One good contact has told me that the CIA gave the Uzbek torturers their turn with him. I do not know that for certain, but who can contradict me?

After years of this, a person can be so psychologically damaged that they believe the narrative of their torturers to be the truth. It is perfectly possible that he now in fact believes he did all that stuff on the list, when he did not.

Alternatively, he may have decided to exaggerate his own role and achievements for the personal glory it brings. We can get the appalling situation where both the sides which benefit from and wish to promote the War on Terror - Al Qaida and the CIA - indulge in what becomes a grim mutual cooperation in exaggeration as each seeks to glorify their role. Thus do those on both sides who actually desire a "Clash of Civilisations", promote one.

What is happening now in Guanatanamo Bay is a disgrace. We cannot in present circumstances accept anything that comes out of it as other than a completely unsubstantiated claim by the Pentagon. Some of it is quite possibly true. But this is no way to make the case.

It should also be noted that Mohammed Sheikh Khalid is a man of some repute amongst CIA torturers, and not for reasons you might expect...

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

And the British view of such interrogation methods, and the results they yield?

Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the infliction of simulated drowning falls within the definition of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment used by the Government for the purposes of international law.

Ian Pearson (Minister of State (Trade), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
Whether the conduct described constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for the purposes of the UN Convention Against Torture would depend on all the circumstances of the case.

America And Britain Asked Poland To Host Secret CIA Gulag

in

Britain's collusion with the CIA rendition and black sites program has been well documented. However, what seems to be emerging now is not so much a story of collusion but full involvement.

POLAND -- The CIA operated an interrogation and short-term detention facility for suspected terrorists within a Polish intelligence training school with the explicit approval of British and US authorities, according to British and Polish intelligence officials familiar with the arrangements.

That sounds like more than just turning a blind eye and allowing CIA torture flights to use British airspace and territory. If this is true then it looks like Tony Blair will have more questions to evade. It would be interesting to hear his response to this:

According to a confidential British intelligence memo shown to RAW STORY, Prime Minister Tony Blair told Poland's then-Prime Minister Leszek Miller to keep the information secret, even from his own government.

Hmm! So much for Tony's enthusiasm for open government. Not only does he mislead the British Government but he's telling leaders of other countries to behave as badly. And this news comes just weeks after the European Parliament voted to approve the report conducted by MEPs (.pdf) into the collusion of EU states in rendition and black sites. In that report, the UK was slammed for its lack of co-operation with the investigation as well as being second in the list of the ten countries accused of allowing stopovers (Germany came first). Back in January Margaret Beckett was forced to admit that the Government knew about the secret prisons used by the CIA.

So can we now expect another admission from Margaret Beckett, in which she tells us that Britain along with the USA, actively encouraged the Polish Prime Minister to use a Soviet-era compound and intelligence centre as a gulag for the CIA and to keep it secret from the Polish government? I doubt it somehow, but the question still needs to be asked. And whoever answers will have to be a bit more convincing than in previous responses because the Americans don't seem to be denying the story apart from protesting (a little too much I think) about how it does not conduct or condone torture.

US intelligence officials confirmed that the CIA had used the compound at Stare Kiejkuty in the past. Speaking generally about the agency’s program, a former senior official said the CIA had never conducted unlawful interrogations.

“We never tortured anyone,” one former senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity. “We sent them to countries that did torture, but not on this scale.”

Despite denials by the Polish authorities that the country is involved with the rendition program, the former head of Polish intelligence, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, has gone on record as saying that the CIA had access to two internal zones at the Stare Kiejkuty training school. When the EU delegation went to Poland as part of their investigation, they reported that key government officials refused to meet with them after having previously agreed to do so. The delegation wanted to investigate both Szymany airport and the facility at Stare Kiejstuty. Mariola Przewlocka, the then airport manager at Szymany revealed that:

...whenever one of the suspected flights was scheduled to land, “orders were given directly by the regional border guards… emphasizing that the airport authorities should not approach the aircraft and that military staff and services alone” would handle landings.

“Money for the services was paid in cash, sometimes as much as four times the normal charge,” the former airport manager added. “Handling of the passengers aboard was carried out in a remote corner of the Szymany airstrip. People came in and out from four-wheel drive cars with shaded windows.”

The cars were seen traveling to and from the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence facility, where British and Polish intelligence officials say US agents conducted short-term interrogations before shuffling prisoners to other locations.

Sounds like a really legitimate operation doesn't it? And if Blair not only knew but also requested this, it begs the question: how much further was he involved in this program? Presumably he intends to obfuscate until he is out of Downing Street, but the questions are not going away and details continue to emerge. If the operation was as innocent as the Americans are insisting, why did they try to silence the EU over rendition flights? And why would the Bush administration seek to prevent suspected terrorists who have been abducted and 'interrogated' from revealing details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that were used on them?

Parallel Lives - Tony and George

in

It's a strange world. We've often wondered what the psychological connection between Tony and George is. Certainly it's baffled everyone close to him. This psychic mirroring is also acting out in the real world, they are facing similar problems at home, in their parties and they seem to fall together like siamese twins.

Then we get the case of corruption. Both administrations are riddled with dodgy deals and sharp practice. Like the US we're soon going to have a trial of a key person, Tony's bagman, Lord 'Scooter' Levy. Both administrations will be known for two things; corruption and Iraq. Both are doomed.

We can only hope that the great arc of neo-conservativism is in steep decline and that soon there will be a great demand for a new way of doing politics and build a new system that is not merely democratic but one that fosters representative government, one that actively engages with the public, that involves people.

New Labour can't do this. They have an instinctive distrust of the public, seeing them as an inconvenience at best. A million march in the streets against the Gaberdene rush to war, only proves that Tony is a leader unafraid to make hard choices. A million and a half sign a petition against road pricing. Send out an email telling them that they're wrong and carry on as though nothing has happened.

We have the technology to bring people into the political process. The old way of joining political parties is dead. Killed off by the politicians and their need for secrecy, their 'we know best' mentality and their desire to create elites in government and within their own parties.

The entire political process is in ruins. The parties are our only real choices of government but, in reality they are minority groups with dwindling membership. The National Trust has three times the members of the major parties combined. More people vote in Big Brother than General Elections. This is not sustainable and not just change, but a revolution needs to happen to grab back power from our representatives and give it to the people.

This is what Blairwatch is really about. Blair is just an example of all that is rotten. New Labour is part of the problem. Who is the solution? We are, all of us. All we have to do is imagine a better world and take the practical steps to bring it about. It will be hard. All the power holders will be against it, but it is not impossible.

Politicians live in a Victorian age, one that has failed to adapt, one that can't adapt. (They're still debating hereditary peers for God's sake). Outside the stuffy atmosphere of Parliament, people are radically changing how they work, how they live, how they communicate.

It is in this world that we live in. Whilst they still write the Queen's Speech on goatskin we use laptops, we communicate, network and agitate on a global basis, It may not look like it, but we are in the ascendant. The long term trends are in our favour and we can build a better world, a better way of governing ourselves. We will win.

We're the future, your future.

Saudi Arabia And The Proxy War In Iraq

in

Much has been made of Iran's alleged supplying of weapons and bombs to Shi'ite factions in Iraq. Far less has been made of Saudi Arabia's apparent role in supplying weapons and funding to Sunni insurgents. And yet, as Saudi Arabia threatened to do, and as has been stated by the Iraq Study Group as well as by journalist, Seymour Hersh, this appears to be the case.

Mike McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said there are funds coming from Saudi Arabia, an ostensible U.S. ally, to help Sunni insurgents in Iraq, while Iran is supporting the Shiite militias there.

McConnell's testimony undergirds U.S. concerns that the Iraq civil war could turn into a direct Saudi-Iranian confrontation, with American military forces caught between warring combatants for Islam's two dominant strains.

Separately, Brian Jenkins, a military expert with Rand Corp., a national security and foreign policy research organization, said: "What we already are seeing in Iraq is an emerging proxy war between Saudi-backed Sunnis and Iranian-backed Shia."

So we seem to have a proxy war taking place that involves three of the biggest oil producers on the planet. It wouldn't take much for this proxy war to escalate into the feared regional conflict that has been widely talked about. Needless to say Saudi Arabia's involvement in the Iraq quagmire is embarrassing for Bush who would prefer to blame Syria for supplying the Sunnis. Admission of the Saudi involvement had to be wrung out out of Mike McConnell by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin asked McConnell during a committee hearing about the source of support for Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

McConnell replied: "There is some flow to the Sunni side in terms of funding and weapons and recruits."

Levin continued: "And what countries are those weapons coming from?"

McConnell: "Weapons could come from a variety of countries. Syria probably is one of the major places."

Levin: "What countries other than Syria could either weapons or funding for the Sunni insurgents come from?"

McConnell: The U.S. lacks "clear evidence that it's definitely coming from any one particular government. But there are indications that it could be a variety of countries around Iraq and also from private donors …"

Levin, interjecting: "What other countries besides Syria? You said that there's evidence that weapons or money for weapons is coming from a number of countries. The one you singled was Syria, but what other countries?"

McConnell: "What I was attempting to say is donors from countries around the area. One would be inside Saudi Arabia, as an example."

Just like the Iranian government, the Saudi government is denying any involvement in supplying the insurgents. Yet strangely, there are no US aircraft carriers threatening the kingdom, no sabre rattling at the UN and no Saudi diplomats have been kidnapped by the Americans. The kingdom seems to be able to do anything it wants with impunity, whether its torturing British citizens or being involved in corruption with BAE or even having known links to al Qaeda.

But Steven Simon, a senior member of the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, said Saudi funding of the Sunni insurgency "is one of those things that we dare not speak its name."

"There is a renewed desire to protect the U.S.-Saudi bilateral relationship," Simon said in an interview. "So you don't want to draw public attention to things they are doing that many observers might regard as counter to American interests."

Yes, quite.